Paramount and CBS are bringing a lawsuit against the Star Trek: Axanar, a project which has been touted as the first independent Star Trek film. The crowdfunded prequel to Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek series has raised over $1 million via crowdfunding.
"While some may call it a 'fan film' as we are not licensed by CBS, Axanar has professionals working in front and behind the camera, with a fully-professional crew--many of whom have worked on Star Trek itself--who ensure Axanar will be the quality of Star Trek that all fans want to see,” the film’s IndieGoGo page reads.
Paramount and CBS accuse the film of infringing on their intellectual property.
"The Axanar Works infringe Plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes," according to the complaint.
While Axanar certainly isn’t the first fan-produced Star Trek project, it may be the biggest, even gaining the support of original series star George Takei, according to reports.
Set 21 years prior to the original series, the story of Axenar follows Garth of Izar, Captain Kirk’s hero who appeared in the episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” Garth and his crew take part in the Four Years War, a conflict between the Federation and the Klingnon Empire that ends with Garth’s victory at Axanar.
Producer Alec Peters seemed to believe that he had an understanding with CBS, telling the Wrap in August that he met with the corporation, and that it was okay with the film as long as it didn’t become a commercial, moneymaking endeavor. “CBS has a long history of accepting fan films,” Peters said. “I think Axanar has become so popular that CBS realizes that we’re just making their brand that much better.”
CBS does have a history of tolerating and supporting such fan properties, presumably on the belief that such projects help build the fandom and grow excitement around the brand. It’s unclear why Star Trek’s owner company has had a change of heart over Axenar. Perhaps the ambitious project just grew larger than CBS was comfortable with. One could also speculate that it has to do with the recent announcement of a new Star Trek TV series. CBS will use the new series to drive viewers towards the CBS All Access streaming service, and maintaining that service as the exclusive source of new Star Trek content, outside of Paramount’s films, may be vital to their strategy.